It can be upsetting and potentially triggering to read about suicide. In the event that you’re feeling vulnerable at the moment, you might want to consider reading this content at a time when you don’t feel distressed.
The information and self-help support provided in this series is not a substitute for seeking medical assistance and advice if required. If you are having thoughts of suicide, please seek professional assistance urgently. You can contact the emergency services on 999 if you feel unable to keep yourself safe, and your local A&E will also be able to provide you with help.

Alternatively, the Samaritans are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 116 123.

Suicide affects people of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, professions, religious backgrounds and ethnicities. Every year in the UK, there are three times as many deaths by suicide than there are deaths in traffic accidents. In the Republic of Ireland, twice as many deaths occur by suicide than deaths on the roads.

  • Unlike people, suicide doesn’t discriminate. Suicide affects people of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, professions, religious backgrounds and ethnicities.
  • It’s estimated that roughly 20% of all people around the world have considered ending their own life at some point.
  • Every year in the UK, there are three times as many deaths by suicide than there are deaths in traffic accidents. In the Republic of Ireland (ROI), twice as many deaths occur by suicide than deaths on the roads. 
  • A total of 6,859 deaths by suicide occurred in the UK and ROI in 2018.
    • 6,507 suicides in the UK
      • One suicide every 90 minutes
      • An average of 17 suicides per day
    • 352 suicides in ROI
      • An average of one suicide every day
  • Despite suicide rates falling in ROI in recent years, 2018 and 2019 saw a significant rise in rates in the UK.
  • Around the world, for every suicide which takes place, an estimated additional 20 people attempt to take their own lives. However, these statistics are likely to be higher as many people who attempt suicide do not seek help or tell anyone.
    • UK: 340 attempts per day, or 124,100 every year
    • ROI: 20 attempts per day, or 7,040 every year
  • 135 people are affected by every suicide (family, friends, colleagues, emergency services, employers other community members):
    • UK: 2,295 people affected by suicide every day or 837,675 every year
    • ROI: 135 people affected by suicide every day or 49,275 every year
  • The rate of suicide differs between the UK’s nations and ROI:
    • Northern Ireland: 18.6 deaths by suicide per 100,000 people
    • Scotland: 16.1 deaths by suicide per 100,000 people
    • Wales: 12.8 deaths by suicide per 100,000 people
    • England: 10.3 deaths by suicide per 100,000 people
    • Republic of Ireland: 8.5 deaths by suicide per 100,000 people
  • In the UK 75% of suicides occur amongst males, and in ROI, 80% of suicides occur amongst males.

graph people by gender and age

  • Those considered at higher risk of dying by suicide in the UK are men aged as follows:
    • England: men aged 45 to 49 years old
    • Wales: men aged 40 to 44 years old
    • Scotland: men aged 35 to 44 years old
    • Northern Ireland: men aged 25 to 29 years old

graph people by gender and age ROI

  • Those considered to be at higher risk of dying by suicide in ROI are men aged 55 to 64.

Suicide rates by occupation

Suicide rates across different occupations has been extensively studied in the UK and internationally. Attempting to explain suicide solely by occupation isn’t possible because there are many factors to consider. However, there a few, granted very broad, reasons why a particular occupation may carry a higher-than-average risk of suicide.

1. Factors such as low pay and low job security

Results from 34 international research projects on suicide by occupation found that people in low-pay jobs and those with less job security and little control over their work patterns were more likely to die by suicide than those in highly paid roles who had a high degree of control over their work. However, it’s important that we don’t generalise. It might be that it’s less about one’s particular occupation that puts them at a higher-than-average risk than it is about the features of their job and the resulting socioeconomic impact.

While there is no definitive breakdown for the rates of suicide in the UK or Irish retail sector specifically, we do know that rates amongst people working in its associated industries such as logistics and warehousing are higher than those working in customer-facing roles. Again, we need to be careful not to draw conclusions about risks amongst particular groups. There are many other psychological, social and individual factors to consider.

2. Having access to a method of suicide at work may increase risk

Individuals such as doctors, dentists, nurses, veterinarians and agricultural workers are known to be at an increased risk of suicide as are people working in the construction sector. This may in part be due to the fact that people working in these professions have easier access to means than some other people. However, it’s important to note that simply having access to means is never the sole reason someone takes their life and there are always other factors involved.

3. Exposure to trauma in the course of one’s work

Professions which encounter high rates of trauma include the armed forces, police, medical and care staff, social workers and veterinarians. Retail also faces exposure to traumatic events in the workplace such as customer assaults, workplace accidents and armed robbery. Exposure to trauma does not on its own cause someone to take their own life, but repeated exposure without the appropriate support by employers and healthcare professionals can result in an individual finding day to day life extremely challenging.

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Next article: Why people die by suicide